Today we were back in the classroom to consider how all changed, changed utterly. We've been operating as four Gaelic tribes, but the world is changing, and while we may have survived Viking and Norman invasions, the Tudor reign in England brings about a dramatic change in the fortunes of the Gaels.
Located as we are, in the noble province of Ulster, the valiant resistance of the O'Neills, lords of Tir Eoin, and the O'Donnells, lords of Tir Chonaill (Donegal) were the subject of our studies. Sadly, despite an extraordinary resistance, Queen Elizabeth's armies ultimately defeated the Earls, who fled from Donegal in 1607, hoping to return again with an army. They never did, and Elizabeth's successor, James of Scotland began a campaign known as the Plantation of Ulster, a project that would have severe consequences for Ireland's future.
Our guest speaker today was the Director of the Dark Daughter Theatre Company, playwright, director and actress Maura Logue. She dramatized the story of Nuala, mother of Red Hugh O'Donnell, and gave our students a palpable sense of the dynamics of the great O'Donnell clan.
After lunch, Niamh brought our group to the O'Donnell castle at Donegal town. The Castle itself is a remarkable history of the period we studied, the ground floor and trip staircase belonging to the Gaelic family, but the second floor and manor house exhibiting all the hallmarks of the English family who replaced them. The impressively huge fireplace is a testament to the new regime, with its Tudor roses and Scottish thistles. The students also were tickled by the rather crooked bathroom facilities, carefully engineered so that no arrows could disturb a sitting!
Our final visit was to Red Hugh himself, guarding the entrance to the town, and the ruins of Donegal Abbey, where much of the Annals of the Four Masters was written. The foresight of these clever scholars to record as much as they could before the changes came has been gratefully acknowledged by all those who study the history of Ireland.
We had some retail therapy time forAran sweaters, Donegal GAA jerseys and some cheap and cheerful gifts, and a little treat today was a freshly baked gingerbread man from O'Hehir's bakery. Later this evening, we go either kayaking of bowling...depending on the rain! Tomorrow, we are off to Letterkenny for the day, and we will be back here soon to tell you all about it. Oiche mhaith!